Astros 2017 preview: Time for Houston to live up to projections

Projection data from Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and PECOTA all like the Astros to end the Rangers' recent dominance in the AL West.

TheAstrosentered the2016 seasonas one of the favorites to reach the AL Championship Series after coming a Royals miracle away from reaching it a year prior. The baseball gods had other plans as Houston struggled out the gate en route to an 84-78 season, good for third in the AL West. The club had its chances to make up ground but went4-15 against the Rangers and saw aceDallas Keuchel add nearly two runs to his ERA from his 2015 Cy Young season.

These types of bad breaks aren't going to repeat in 2017 — veteran additionsJosh Reddick, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann won't allow it. Their leadership, paired with the ongoing growth of the young and talented infield, and improved defense at third and in the outfield, make the Astros a dangerous team.

It's no wonderprojection data from Baseball ProspectusandFanGraphseach like the Astros to take a step forward this season. We are in agreement there. A bounce-back season fromKeuchel and closer Ken Giles, a strong April start, and a winning record against the Rangers this season will help Houston win the West and reach at least 90 wins.

Here's what the 2017 season will hold for an Astros roster with a blend of youth and experience.

Houston Astros schedule 2017

The Astros beginthe 2017 schedule on baseball's opening dayApril 3 in Houston against the Mariners at 8:10 p.m. ET. After thefour-game opening series, the Astros host Kansas City before their road opener in Seattle.

Series with the Athletics, Angels and Rays should give Houston a chance at momentum heading to a possible future playoff series preview against the Indians beginning April 25 in Cleveland.

Houston Astrosroster

Astrosprojected opening day lineup

1.George Springer, OF

2. Jose Altuve, 2B

3. Carlos Correa, SS

4.Carlos Beltran, DH

5. Brian McCann, C

6. Alex Bregman, 3B

7.Josh Reddick, OF

8.Yulieski Gurriel, 1B

9.Norichika Aoki, OF

Astros projected rotation

1.Dallas Keuchel, LHP

2. Lance McCullers, RHP

3.Collin McHugh, RHP

4.Mike Fiers, RHP

5.Charlie Morton, RHP

Astros projected bullpen

Closer:Ken Giles, RHP
Setup:Luke Gregerson, RHP
Setup:Will Harris, RHP

Astros fantasy baseball sleeper

Alex Bregman, 3B —The Astros' top prospect gave fans and fantasy owners a glimpse of his bright future duringhis 49-game introduction to the majors last year, clubbing eight homers. Between the minors and majors, the 22-year-oldhit 28 HRs and stole nine bases in 2016, and he has major run-production potential in the Astros' potent lineup.

Houston Astros' top prospects

MORE: Baseball Prospectus' 2017 PECOTA projections love Dodgers, still hate Royals

The best pitching prospect in the organization, Francis Martes, is also the No. 5in MLB.com'sright-hander rankings. The 21-year-old has mid-90s velocity and a strongcurveball and could make it to the big-league roster later this season. His development is one of the reasons the Astros were comfortable with trading Vincent Velasquez.

With older brotherPreston Tucker currently on the 40-man roster, the Astros' No. 2 prospect,Kyle Tucker,is not only expected to join him someday but also see more playing time. According to MLB.com, Kyleis a more well-rounded player and more advanced at the same stage of their careers.

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